5 stars · Fantasy · series · young adult

The Rise of Kyoshi: an AMAZING original story in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe

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The Rise of Kyoshi

author : f.c. yee

pages : [hardcover] 442

favorite character : kyoshi

memorable quote :

What you do when no one is guiding you determines who you are.

summary :

F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi delves into the story of Kyoshi, the Earth Kingdom–born Avatar. The longest-living Avatar in this beloved world’s history, Kyoshi established the brave and respected Kyoshi Warriors, but also founded the secretive Dai Li, which led to the corruption, decline, and fall of her own nation. The first of two novels based on Kyoshi, The Rise of Kyoshi maps her journey from a girl of humble origins to the merciless pursuer of justice who is still feared and admired centuries after she became the Avatar.

review :

The Avatar universe continues to be one of the best things ever created.

When I first heard they were telling Kyoshi’s story in books, I was so excited because Avatar is one of the few franchises I think has done well in the transition between mediums. Usually, when you read an adaptation of something that appeared on film or television, it’s . . . lacking. But the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics are stunning, and I expected this book to be no different. I was right!

The Rise of Kyoshi is everything I could ever want and everything younger me needed. When I think back to the thirteen year old watching the show as it aired on my television–back before I could record anything so I’d need to rush to the screen once the time came–she would have loved this book as much as I do. She might have figured out some important things about herself a little faster. She would have been overjoyed, able to relate to freaking Avatar Kyoshi, aka one of the most badass characters I think has ever existed.

This book is so well-written. I love how it managed to capture the feel of the TV series with funny moments, a great crew built around Kyoshi, and also terribly poignant, heartfelt moments. Not to mention terrible violence and danger. Can’t have the Avatar’s job be too easy.

Kyoshi’s character arc in The Rise of Kyoshi is fascinating and unique in that viewers of the series will already know who she is when she’s older. At the beginning of this book, we see an uncertain teenager who’s actually pretty certain she isn’t the Avatar. I loved seeing her growth in this book and was jazzed when I realized this wasn’t a standalone–we’re getting an entire Kyoshi series! I can’t wait to see what’ll come in book two, which is releasing soon. Watching Kyoshi grow, evolve, make all the mistakes typical in a coming-of-age novel–it’s incredibly refreshing, real, and relatable, which is what Avatar is all about. The Rise of Kyoshi has the same heart as the series, and I can’t recommend it enough. I literally can’t stop thinking about it.

If you’re an Avatar fan, or even if you haven’t watched the show and are just looking for an incredible book to read, pick up The Rise of Kyoshi. You won’t regret it.

5/5 stars

 

Fantasy · series · young adult

The Language of Thorns: a book where the words and illustrations are equally beautiful

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Grishaverse

author : leigh bardugo

pages : [hardcover] 281

memorable quote :

We were not made to please princes.

summary :

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

review :

This book is beautiful. The words, the illustrations, the cover. Every piece of it is pure art. I could sit here and stare at it all day, and be content.

The Language of Thorns is a collection of short stories. I was surprised to find that most of them are fairytale retellings–guys, gals, non-binary pals, those are my very favorite type of thing to read. I love how those stories always feel familiar, yet tell you so much about the writer in the way they change the words, characters, and tales to become their own creations. It’s fascinating in a unique way.

This book is entirely unique. It’s rare that I come across a collection where I enjoy each of the stories inside. Yes, I had my favorites here, but I liked reading through every story, trying to pick apart what tale inspired each one and predict what was going to happen. A lot of these are surprisingly unpredictable, and I loved the little reveals that came in the text.

In my opinion, this is a collection best savored. I read one story each day, so I had time to sit with it and really sink into the words. Just because short story collections can be devoured quickly often doesn’t mean they should; something beautiful might be lost in the rush. And with this book, you’ll want time to look over the illustrations as well, literally framing the pages. BEAUTIFULLY. It’s all so beautiful. I’m never going to be over it.

The Language of Thorns is also perfect because if you haven’t read anything by Leigh Bardugo yet, you can dive right into this to get a taste for her writing style. These stories are related to the world she’s created, but you in no way need to read any of those other books before turning to this one. And loving it. And then deciding to pick up her other novels, because of course that’s the only reasonable decision to make.

Although I guess there aren’t many YA readers left who don’t know Leigh Bardugo’s writing.

This collection of short stories gets 5/5 stars from me; it’s one I’ll reread over and over again, but I might save it next to curl up with on a chilly autumn evening.

5/5 stars

 

science fiction · series · young adult

Sword in the Stars: an amazing conclusion to this King Arthur in space duology

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Sword in the Stars

Once and Future #2

authors : amy rose capetta & cori mccarthy

favorite character : merlin

summary :

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist… thousands of years in the past.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail—the very definition of impossible.

It’s imperative that the time travelers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face-to-face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future…

review :

Wow wow wow wow wow.

I’ve never read a book like Once and Future, I’ve never read a conclusion like Sword in the Stars. This duology is so good, and so important for spreading diversity in a genre that unfortunately doesn’t see much of it. There’s so much representation in these books, so much love, power, and determination sprinkled on every page. It makes me wish there was more for me to read, more books to anticipate, but, honestly, Sword in the Stars is the perfect end to this epic journey across space and time to save the universe.

Ari and her friends, including backwards-aging Merlin, all return in this sequel with the intent to stop Mercer once and for all–the power-hungry company ruling the known universe (I personally picture them as Amazon but with spaceships). They need to go back to the past if they have any hope at saving the future.

I was honestly worried when I saw time travel would be involved in a duology where in Once and Future each character, no matter their identity, is allowed to live fully out and proud without any fear (well, being afraid of Mercer, but Mercer wants to kill them for various reasons, none of which involve how the characters identify). Refreshing! Obviously untrue in the past (and … present). I did really like how their time in the past was handled, though; no truth was brushed over, but a lot of hope was given in the past as well.

I do wish Sword in the Stars had dug a little farther into its characters. There’s an amazing cast here, filled with people who genuinely care for one another and the universe even if they each have their own spectacular flaws. At times, something would happen that wouldn’t just be shocking, but devastating, and only a line or two would be spared for the characters’ feelings before . . . it would never be mentioned again. I’m an emotional person, and often feel better connected when reading if I have a good understanding of where the main characters are emotionally. None of that was ever really touched on. The plot was excellent; I liked the different beats the story hit, but at times it felt like emotional arcs were sacrificed in order to tie up plot points.

That being said, for someone sitting on the fringes of sci-fi and only just beginning to get into the genre, I loved the world and story built here. The plot was complex and a little convoluted, but not difficult to follow. I loved the journey the characters take, and the conclusion more than satisfied me (okay, yes, I shed a few tears at the end. SUE ME. That was an emotional beat that hit!). I can’t wait to read more from these authors. I also can’t wait to see the diverse stories that are published in the future (our future, not a Mercer hundreds-of-years-from-now future) because YA readers were inspired by books like Once and Future and Sword in the Stars.

4/5 stras

5 stars · Fantasy · series · young adult

WAYWARD SON is a very fun sequel okay

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Wayward Son

Simon Snow #2
Book 1: Carry On

author : rainbow rowell

pages : [hardcover] 356

memorable quote :

But it was a mistake thinking of that as an end. There is no end. Bad things happen, and then they stop, but they keep on wreaking havoc inside of people.

favorite character : baz

summary :

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

review :

I remember a time when I never thought I’d get to read any more Simon and Baz, so I count myself lucky that this book exists and there’s going to be a third book. This book isn’t perfect, but it was a lot of fun and I loved every minute of it (not to mention it dragged me forcibly out of my perpetual reading slump).

Wayward Son deals with the “aftermath of the Chosen One” trope that seems to be popping up a little more often in YA these days. The world is saved. Simon sacrificed a lot for that and everyone seems to think he should be just fine. Nothing will ever be the same, and no one seems to really care.

So they all go on a roadtrip, to try to shake things up and make Simon a little less depressed.

What I liked so much about Wayward Son was the characters, because they all felt very real. Penny is having some harsh realizations about herself that typically happen to people after high school. Baz is still trying to figure out where he belongs in the world. Simon has lost so much and has taken to that quiet kind of depression that affects so many people–not taking care of himself, pushing away the people who care for him because clearly they would be better off without him. And they’re just as young as he is, so they’re equally at a loss for what to do. They’re three teenagers trying to find their footing in a world that really doesn’t need them anymore, and basically anyone who picks up this book should be able to relate to that.

The plot was a little bit all over the place for me, because for half of the book is was just ROADTRIP and then the rest seemed to be building toward something that didn’t quite have its foundation yet. I was still fully on board; the only thing that really threw me off was the last few chapters. It sort of felt like only then and there the decision was made to build up for a third book, which I regrettably wasn’t anticipating because the first book read like a standalone so I assumed this one would as well. Cue sad violins for me as I desperately wait for book three.

Wayward Son also confirms for me that I’m back in it with vampires. Give me all the vampire books. Brooding ones. Dorky ones. Closeted vampires like Baz who have literally no idea what they’re doing but are trying their best.

If you enjoyed Carry On, I really think you’ll like this sequel as well. The same sense of humor that permeated the first book is still here and made me actually laugh out loud a few times. I think I might have groaned a few times too, as in Oh no Simon don’t do thAT WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT. These boys will be the death of me. Go read this book.

5/5 stars

 

4 stars · Fantasy · series · young adult

We Hunt the Flame = hot hot hot

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We Hunt the Flame

Sands of Arawiya #1

author : hafsah faizal

pages : [hardcover] 472

memorable quote :

We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves.

favorite character : altair

summary :

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

review :

We Hunt the Flame is one of those books where I’m torn between why didn’t I read this sooner and why did I read this now when I need to wait so long for a sequel. The world-building is spectacular. The characters are wonderful, flawed, and cunning. I love a good plot that revolves around a deadly quest. All of these elements come together to form a book that’s exceptionally unique.

Or maybe it just tricked me into falling in love with two of the main characters so I just had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.

We Hunt the Flame is told in dual POV. Zafira lives in a place where people are dying because there’s no magic, except for the magical winter spread by the impassable forest encroaching on her village. Nasir lives in wealth, but suffers because of his line of work: assassination. The two have very different goals when they meet on their quests: Zafira wants to return magic and save everyone. Nasir knows he needs to kill her.

I’m not sure there’s any book out there featuring enemies to lovers that I’m not destined to fall for.

The supporting cast is great too (including my husband, Altair) although it seems like almost every character speaks fluent sarcasm. I enjoyed this for the most part, but sometimes it becomes hard to determine who’s talking when all of their dialogue ends up being very similar. I liked that everyone had very different (sometimes hidden and mysterious) motivations, making the plot even more complicated. I love it when YA has layers, intrigue inserted over all of the action and romance.

The one negative I have to say about this book is that sometimes the transitions in the plot are a little too jarring. If anything, I think We Hunt the Flame could have benefited from being slightly longer. There were some scene transitions (and even some points within the same scene) where something would happen and I would be left wondering how the heck we as the reader had gotten there. It’s fine to provide less information during chaotic/action-filled scenes, but there was never any backtracking that explained what we’d missed, when everything had a chance to calm down. I know I always talk about how I detest info-dumping but at some points it felt like this book did the opposite and withheld some information. Unfortunately I can’t give any specific examples without spoilers, and I did enjoy this book so . . . you’ll just need to read it for yourself and then we can discuss.

I liked where this book ended and how the setup is coming together for book two. I think it’ll be interesting–I think especially with all of the groundwork this book has done, there won’t really be as many moments of confusion for me as this story continues. It seems like we might get other points of view in the rest of the series too, which I wholeheartedly welcome. Let me into their heads! Give me all of their secrets! Well, not all of them. We’ve come so far and yet there’s still so much mystery wrapped around some of these characters.

If you’re a YA fantasy fan, definitely check out We Hunt the Flame. It’s exactly the right combo of familiar, beloved YA tropes with a unique storyline. It sort of subverts the whole chosen one narrative by having more reluctant (and angry, stabby) main characters. And truthfully, it’s a lot of fun!

4/5 stars

 

 

Fantasy · series · young adult

This Savage Song: so you say you want to read about an attractive violinist


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This Savage Song

Monsters of Verity #1

author : victoria schwab

pages : [paperback] 468

favorite character : august

memorable quote :

I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.

summary :

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

review :

Part of me loves to read books years after their release. On my own time, with no rush, so I can fall right into the story.

The other half of me wonders why I didn’t read this years ago.

Okay. It was partly because I thought this was a contemporary book, and I don’t normally read contemporary. I KNOW. You’re thinking, Kayla, read a summary some day why don’t you. I don’t know how it got in my brain that this was, like, a light romance between some girl and a musician. Maybe because the cover looks like a contemporary?

I’M HERE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. This is definitely a fantasy, sort of dystopian fantasy (but not in the overdone, mid-2000s sort of way). This Savage Song is beautiful. The story is told in two points of view and at first there was that thing happening where I preferred reading one over the other. Then we got to know the characters, their pasts and motivations, and I fell for both of them. Hard.

This Savage Song is one of those fantasies where the less you knowing going into it, the better, because the world-building here is so great that you don’t need to know anything in advance. Sure, I would die within a day if I lived in this place, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to imagine it.

Also, this book is a little . . terrifying. And I loved it. And I realized that I need more slightly horrifying protagonists in my life, who are really pure cinnamon roll characters underneath. That dynamic will never get old.

All said, I can’t recommend this book enough. I finally got around to it because of a friend’s recommendation, so let me be that friend to you: Read. It. Now.

5/5 stars

 

 

Fantasy · series · young adult

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: immediately a favorite

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Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

author : susan dennard

pages : [hardcover] 416

memorable quote :

Sometimes justice was all about the small victories.

favorite character : safi

summary :

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

review :

Why did it take me so long to finally read this book?? It’s been on my TBR since 2016. I could have been in love with this series and Susan Dennard’s writing two years ago. Because Truthwitch is now–immediately, wholeheartedly–one of my favorite books.

My best recommendation is for you to pick up this book without reading any more on it. Let yourself be immersed in the story itself. Dennard creates such a detailed, fantastical–terrifying–world that’s impossible not to get drawn into. This is one of those fantasy novels where you can easily picture yourself in the setting. You wonder what sort of witch you’d most like to be, in their world. You wonder who your allies would be. And your enemies.

I always say that plot comes second to me, just behind the characters, but this one really holds out against an amazing cast. Really, with the nuanced, flawed; and hilarious main characters, everything else is just extra. Every unpredictable plot twist or witty quip or bit of romance. Yes, there are some very intriguing relationships developing here that I’m already obsessed with.

And then that ending, that really takes what’s left of your heart and shoves it through a shredder.

But, like, in a good way. It’s fine. Read it anyway.

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. Don’t delay as much as I did–read it now!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · series · young adult

Reread Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone is still one of my favorite books

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daughter of smoke and bone

author : laini taylor

reread review :

Yep. Still love it.

Because Goodreads only all too recently added the reread option, I’m not sure what read this really is for me. Fourth? Fifth? I love it anyway. There’s always some new detail that I find I’ve forgotten or never noticed before– a new line that helps me remember why I fell in love with these books in the first place. Hard enough that as soon as I finished renting it from the library, I needed to buy my own copy!

Akiva is still one of my favorite love interests of all time. I love how flawed he is and can’t wait for my reread of book two for more of him!

Karol is as always a gripping main character. She is completely unique. I love how she can go from teenage angst to trying to save the world and still feel like a realistic, flawed character.

I recommend this book to everyone possible. You absolutely must give it a try!

 

original rating : 5/5 stars

reread rating : 5/5 stars

 

how I feel when I read this book :

ahwg

5 stars · series · young adult

A Gathering of Shadows: suffering from sequel syndrome


A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows

Shades of Magic #2
Book 1: A Darker Shade of Magic

author : v. e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 512

memorable quote :

Crossing worlds, killing royals, saving cities. The marks of every good courtship.

favorite character : holland (& kell’s coat)

summary :

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

review :

I went into the Shades of Magic trilogy knowing absolutely nothing, because sometimes that’s the best way to let yourself slip into a book. To fall into the world headfirst alongside the characters. Book one immediately drew me in, with the inventive and captivating writing, array of interesting characters, and a plot that held back nothing.

Book two was . . . different. The tone was different, the setup of the story was different. My reaction was different.

I didn’t hate it. I still loved the characters, and some of their actions made me love them even more. I still loved the world and the world-building skills of V.E. Schwab. If this had been a standalone novel or the first book in a different series I would have loved the book itself.

But we go from book one, A Darker Shade of Magic, in which entire worlds are at stake and people are dying, to book two, where the main characters participate in a magical tournament. Sort of like the Olympics of magical sparring. And all of the important, life-altering, terrible things that could shatter the world at any moment happen only in the background.

It’s hard to take the plot very seriously when it sort of reads like a fanfiction. As if someone saw the overall plot and thought it would be interesting to throw in some entertaining gladiator fighting in the middle of it.

To be honest, it’s great fanfiction. The descriptions are so astounding the visuals pop off of the page. The feats of magic are entertaining and the characters get in several quotable quips. But I can’t help but feel as if the series would be better as a duology.

It feels odd to like a book and the writing, but feel as if the entire plot line has been misplaced.

I would still recommend this book, because it’s a fun read and the ending is a great bridge to book three.

5/5 stars

4 stars · science fiction · series

Reread Review: The Woods Vol. 1: The Arrow: let’s see how crazy this space high school can get

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the woods, vol 1: the arrow

by james tynion iv

artist : michael dialynas

pages : [ebook] 128

summary :

On October 16, 2013, 437 students, 52 teachers, and 24 additional staff from Bay Point Preparatory High School in suburban Milwaukee, WI vanished without a trace. Countless light years away, far outside the bounds of the charted universe, 513 people find themselves in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Where are they? Why are they there? The answers will prove stranger than anyone could possibly imagine.

reread review :

The Woods is a very interesting concept with an okay execution. The writing is okay, the characters are okay, the monsters are okay–and it definitely has potential. But when I read volume one for the first time it was the only one available at my library. By the time I found the following volumes, I needed to reread this one. Because I remembered . . . barely anything about it. And maybe that says more about this volume than anything else ever could.

Would I recommend it? Yes. It’s a quick read and it’s a creative concept. But it doesn’t immediately stand out as a favorite graphic novel for me–doesn’t pack as much of a punch as a first volume potentially should.

3/5 stars